Written by Thomas Scott
If you have been paying close attention, you might have noticed a recent resurgance of HBCU talent in the NFL.
The Chicago Bears selected Tarik Cohen from North Carolina A&T in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Since then, Cohen has become a fan favorite and All-Pro racking up 1,027 rushing yards, 1,537 receiving yards, and 17 total touchdowns. The following season, the Indianapolis Colts selected Darius Leonard in the second round of the NFL Draft. Leonard quickly became one of the best defensive players in the NFL. In fact, the South Carolina State alum was named the 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year and led the entire NFL in tackles (163).
That is only a small sample of HBCU talent thriving in the NFL. There are plenty of players from the HBCU pipeline producing at a high level. NFL scouts and executives are waking up to this trend, and for the first time ever created a NFL combine for HBCU talent they may have overlooked. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of 4 HBCU players to watch for in this year’s draft.
Alex Taylor | South Carolina State | OL
At 6’8 and 308 pounds, Alex Taylor has the physical tools to be a dominant offensive lineman in the NFL for many years to come.Yet, ironically, the HBCU player with the best chance of being selected in this year’s NFL Draft almost didn’t play football in college. For two years, Alex Taylor played basketball at Appalachian State and initially trasferred to South Carolina State join the basketball team. After seeing the success of South Carolina State’s Darius Leonard, Taylor decided to focus on football. In two seasons with the Bulldogs, Taylor has become a highly coveted prospect. Taylor was the only HBCU player invited to both the Senior Bowl and main NFL combine. After these performances, Taylor is climbing up draft boards and many NFL experts are labeling him a top “sleeper pick”.
Elijah Bell | North Carolina A&T| WR
For the past 3 seasons at least one Aggie has been selected in the NFL Draft. This year, Elijah Bell hopes to keep that streak alive. Despite winning a state championship and being named the top receiver in West Virigina, Bell only got one offer from a Division I program. Bell became an immediate contributor to the Aggies from the first day he stepped on the field. He finished his career with 2,980 yards, 202 catches, and 33 touchdowns. What’s even more impressive is Bell’s ability to catch contested passes. He currently predicted to land anywhere from the 4th-7th round.
Christian Rowland | Hampton | WR
Chris Rowland arguably had one of the best seasons in college footbal history in 2019. With 104 catches, Chris Rowland broke Jerry Rice’s HBCU record for most receptions in a single season. Rice held on to that record for 36 years. He was named Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year and won the Deacon Jones Trophy (award for top HBCU player) Rowland’s playmaking abilities were not limited to the receiver position, he also scored touchdowns as a running back and kick returner. The only knock against Rowland has been his size. If given the right opportunity, he could become a day 2 steal for the right NFL team.